Pine Gap Protest

October 3, 2002

50 Years of an Atomic Outback

Today marks the 50th Anniversary of the first atomic weapons test on Australian soil. October 4th 1952 saw the first British atmospheric test at Monte Bello Island off the Western Australian coast and in 1953 testing was relocated to sites at Maralinga and Emu Field on mainland Australia.

"The legacy of nuclear testing continues today with contaminated lands, poisoned veterans and displaced Aboriginal communities," said FoE nuclear campaigner Bruce Thompson. "Sadly, the secrecy and indifference of the weapons testing era continues in Australia's current nuclear industry."

In return for opening up our backyard the British Government gave Australia the Lucas Heights Nuclear Reactor. The Federal Government push for a new reactor in suburban Sydney is now the focus of strong community concern and action. The recent documentary ?Fortress Australia¹ adds to clear evidence that successive Australian governments sought to retain the nuclear option.

"It¹s a great irony that the land where weapons were tested is now being proposed as the land where radioactive waste from Lucas Heights would be dumped," said Bruce Thompson. "In the name of an ill defined 'national interest' the Federal Government is again preparing to literally bulldoze Aboriginal and community opposition."

Today's anniversary comes as peace and anti-nuclear activists from around Australia converge on Alice Springs for a national protest action against the secretive Pine Gap US military facility. The spy base, which plays a pivotal role in the controversial US National Missile Defence scheme, has recently been placed on a war alert as part of US plans for war on Iraq.

"Australian soil has been at the service to atomic ambitions of others for 50 years and Pine Gap continues this shameful history," said FoE spokesperson Dimity Hawkins. "Australia should play a positive role in seeking peaceful resolution of conflicts instead of allowing a base we host but don't control to target innocent people."

"Pine Gap is key in planning for war on Iraq and this is happening without the knowledge or consent of the Australian people," said Dimity Hawkins. " Atomic experiments and military adventures have no place in contemporary Australia. We need to reflect upon and learn from the mistakes of our history, not repeat them."

National Pine Gap Protest
Saturday 5th ­ Monday 7th October 2002

For further comment:
Dimity Hawkins National Weapons Spokesperson Ph: 0425 786 301
Bruce Thompson Nuclear Campaigner Ph: 0417 318 368

Digital Images Available

MEDIA RELEASE - Friday 4 October 2002

National group joins in protest to Expose the Gap

National environment group Friends of the Earth (FoE) will join other Australian and international groups over the next three days to protest the use of the Pine Gap facilities in US war preparation and the expansion of the War of Terror.

"We stand on the brink of a war against Iraq, and this is a great concern for all Australians," said FoE spokesperson Dimity Hawkins. "We have seen politicians, military personnel and social commentators decry Australia's involvement in a war against Iraq. This weekend will see ordinary and extraordinary Australian's come out strongly against the war."

"The US military uses environmental satellite imagery to aid strike planning and weapons selection for both Afghanistan and Iraq. We know that military satellites can direct new high-tech weapons to hit targets on the ground. We also know that Pine Gap is integral to these US war fighting systems, and we will not accept any role in that." said Dimity Hawkins.

Despite the on going debate in the international community and while the Federal government says that a final decision has yet to be made on Australia's role in a war against Iraq, our joint defence facilities such as Pine Gap are currently in use in preparation for strikes against Iraq.
"There is very real concern among many in Australia at this Government's willingness to compromise our national sovereignty in favour of US military imperatives," said Peter Barker of Friends of the Earth, Melbourne. "This is one of the key reasons Friends of the Earth will be supporting the peaceful and creative actions planned for this weekend outside the Pine Gap facility. We want to send our government a clear message that Australians and Australian interests are not simply fodder for the US war machine."

Friends of the Earth will join with hundreds of people ­ politicians, doctors, artists, students, environmental and social justice activists ­ in peaceful actions against the Pine Gap base, from Saturday 5 October to Monday 7 October.

At the same time there will be actions held in other Australian cities and in at least a dozen other countries worldwide as part of an international week of action to protest the war and the use of space as a fourth dimension in warfare.

For further comment contact:
Dimity Hawkins
Nuclear Weapons Spokesperson - Friends of the Earth Australia
0425 786 301 or (08) 8298 5326

at the Pine Gap protest contact:
Peter Barker - Friends of the Earth
0438 895 471
Bruce Thompson - Friends of the Earth
0417 318 368

MEDIA RELEASE - 6 October 2002

Politicians and puppets join protesters

Federal and state based politicians are joining with giant puppets and protesters this morning at the Pine Gap facilities to oppose the use of the base for any war against Iraq.

Friends of the Earth spokesperson, Bruce Thompson said today that the protest has been creative and vibrant over the past day and a half, with a diverse group of protesters present at the base. He said he hoped the message for peace gets through to the Howard government.

"Our government has not been listening to the Australian people when we say that we will not go to war under another nation's leadership," said Bruce Thompson. "Therefore we have to take the message directly to them, whether it be by taking it to parliament house, our cities streets or the military facilities in our deserts."

Newly elected Greens Federal Senator, Kerry Nettle, as well as the new Deputy Leader of the Democrats, Senator Lyn Allison, joined with other politicians, as well as doctors, church leaders, puppets and protesters taking part in the mornings events at the military base.

The Greens have called for John Howard to come clean on how Pine Gap is being used in the War on Terror or any potential war against Iraq.

Friends of the Earth Australia has an on going and active interest in the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction and will continue to resist any plans for a US led war against Iraq.

Mass actions are planned throughout the day today at Pine Gap.

For media comment please contact:
Bruce Thompson: 0417 318 368 or Dimity Hawkins: 0425 786 301
Friends of the Earth

Digital Images of the protest available

MEDIA RELEASE - 6 October 2002

Peace protest grows

The protest at the Pine Gap joint defence facility grew today as parliamentarians and doctors joined protesters and local residents at the gates in peaceful actions.

o Senator Kerry Nettle, newly elected Greens Senator, and Senator Lyn Allison, from the Australian Democrats, joined with 300 protesters at the military installation. Both the Greens and the Democrats committed to continuing calls for a parliamentary inquiry into Australian involvement in a war against Iraq, including exploring the use of the Pine Gap base.

o Doctors from the Medical Association for Prevention of War provided a colourful action which culminated in the presentation of a petition, signed by several hundred medical professionals across Australia, to Base officials. The petition called for the United States government to relinquish their lease on the facility in the name of public health.

o Also joining the protest was a strong and vocal contingent of over 80 local residents from the Alice Springs community who wanted to make clear their opposition to the presence of the military facility.

o The morning ended with a local indigenous represented Vince Forrester who spoke strongly about the bases impact on Australian sovereignty.

Friends of the Earth spokesperson, Bruce Thompson said this afternoon, "Despite the seriousness of the global issues we face, people have managed to maintain a large protest at the gates over the past two days with humour and creativity and a strong sense of purpose. This protest and others being held around Australia and across the world are a part of a catalyst of the resurging peace movement."

The protest will conclude tomorrow with a festival parade through the streets of Alice Springs.

For media comment please contact:
Bruce Thompson: 0417 318 368 or Dimity Hawkins: 0425 786 301
Friends of the Earth

Digital Images of the protest available

MEDIA RELEASE - 7 October 2002

Peaceful protest a Success, say organisers

The three day protest against the Pine Gap joint defence facility outside of Alice Springs concluded this afternoon with a peaceful and up-beat rally in town. However, organisers have condemned the mornings action by Northern Territory police as unjustified violence against campers at the protest site.

"People were packing up in the early morning to head into town for the scheduled festival and closing rally with the local community when police moved in without warning. They arrested around eight members of the camp with excessive use of force and injured several others," said Friends of the Earth spokesperson, Bruce Thompson this morning. "The use of force against people simply packing up their camp after a peaceful weekend was unprovoked. We are shocked and disappointed by the unnecessary escalation of hostility on behalf of the police."

Despite the actions of the police this morning, campers took their peaceful protest to Alice Springs and marched from the Council Gardens, past the police lock up and the court house to celebrate the end of the weekends activities.

The protest over the weekend have seen 17 arrests, including:
o 4 on Saturday, which saw "weapons" charges being brought against two protesters for carrying paint;
o 5 on Sunday for breeching the security fences of the military facility; and
o 8 on Monday. Charges have yet to be laid against the people arrested at the camp this morning.

"The aims of this protest were simply to raise awareness of the existence and purpose of the Pine Gap facility in war fighting, and in terms of that aim we have had a very successful weekend," said Dimity Hawkins, Friends of the Earth spokesperson.

The protest attracted around 500 people over the weekend from a diverse cross section of the Australian community, including local residents, community groups, doctors, lawyers, parliamentarians and students. "The actions these people have taken have been overwhelmingly peaceful and positive." said Bruce Thompson. "The protest has been hugely successful in making the links about the base and its role in the looming war against Iraq."

For media comment please contact:
Bruce Thompson: 0417 318 368
Dimity Hawkins: 0425 786 301
Friends of the Earth - Australia